Keep warm, keep well in cold weather

Staying warm and well this winter 

Winter conditions can be seriously  bad for your health, especially for those aged over 65, under five years old and people with ongoing health problems such as lung disease, diabetes or heart disease.

Follow the tips below to make sure you stay warm and well this winter.

Heat your home well 

Heat your home to a minimum of 18°C (65°F) and make sure you are dressed appropriately for the weather. Setting the temperature slightly higher than this may be beneficial for your health if you are elderly or vulnerable.

Eat well and drink plenty of fluids

Food and drinks are vital sources of energy and help keep your body warm. Make sure you and your family have hot meals and drinks regularly throughout the day.

Get the flu jab

Certain people can get a free flu jab to protect against seasonal flu, including the over 65s, pregnant women, people with long term illness and the main carers of elderly or disabled people. 

Look after yourself and others

Keeping active is good for your health, but on really cold days try to avoid going outside. If you need to go out, wrap up warm and take care on slippery surfaces. Look out for older or vulnerable neighbours and relatives throughout the winter to make sure they are safe and well.

Tips and keeping warm

Keeping your home warm, efficiently and safely

  • Heating your home to at least 18°C in winter poses minimal risk to your health when you are wearing suitable clothing
  • Heating your home to at least 18°C is particularly important if you have reduced mobility, are 65 and over, or have a health condition, such as heart or lung disease - having room temperatures slightly over 18°C could be good for your health
  • If you are under 65, active and wearing appropriate clothing, you may feel comfortable at room temperatures slightly lower than 18°C
  • Overnight, people who are 65 and over, or have pre existing health conditions, may find bedroom temperatures of at least 18°C are good for their health - this may be less important if you are a healthy adult under 65 and have appropriate clothing and bedding
  • If you can't heat all the rooms you use, heat the living room during the day and your bedroom just before you go to sleep
  • Get your heating system and cooking appliances checked and keep your home well-ventilated
  • If you have an electric blanket, use it as instructed and get it tested every three years - never use a hot water bottle with an electric blanket
  • Don't use a gas cooker or oven to heat your home - it is inefficient and there is a risk of carbon monoxide poisoning which can kill
  • If you aren't on mains gas or electricity, make sure you have a supply of heating oil, LPG or solid fuel so you do not run out in winter

Keep the warmth in

  • Fit draught proofing to seal any gaps around windows and doors
  • Make sure you have loft insulation and, if you have cavity walls, that they are insulated too
  • Insulate your hot water cylinder and pipes
  • Draw your curtains at dusk and tuck behind radiators to help keep heat inside
  • Make sure radiators are not obstructed by furniture or curtains

Look after yourself 

  • Keeping well will allow you to do more and keep your independence - being cold isn't just uncomfortable, it can be bad for your health
  • Sitting or sleeping in a cold room isn't good for you and increases the risk of heart attacks, stroke and breathing problems
  • Don't let the cold catch you out - check the weather forecast and be ready for cold weather
  • Keep your bedroom windows closed on a winter's night - breathing cold air can increase the risk of chest infections
  • Food is a vital source of energy and helps to keep your body warm, so have plenty of hot food and drinks
  • Aim to include five daily portions of fruit and vegetable in your diet - tinned and frozen vegetables count towards your five a day
  • Stock up on tinned and frozen foods so you don't have to go out too much when it's cold or icy
  • Exercise is good for you all year round and can keep you warm in winter
  • Wear a few layers of thin clothing rather than one thick layer as this will trap the heat better to keep you warm - socks and hats are great too and are a good idea to keep you warm in bed
  • Thin layers of clothes made from cotton, wool or fleecy fibres are particularly good and maintain body heat
  • Wear good-fitting slippers with a good grip indoors and shoes with a good grip outside to prevent slips, trips and falls
  • Make sure you have spare medication in case you are unable to go out
  • Cover yourself with a blanket or shawl if you are sitting for long periods as this will help keep you warm - put your feet up if you can, the air may be colder near the floor
  • Keep moving if you can - this will keep you warm
  • Try not to sit for more than an hour - get up and walk around, make a hot drink and spread housework throughout the day
  • If walking is a problem, try moving your arms and legs whilst sitting, or wiggling your fingers and toes
  • Power and utility companies have schemes which make at-risk groups a priority for reconnection following power cuts: find out if you meet the criteria and how to sign up (external link)

Look after others 

  • Check on frail or older neighbours or relatives, especially those living alone or who have serious illness, to make sure they are safe, warm and well
  • All of the advice above for 'Looking after yourself' can be used to plan how to help others
  • Those with care responsibilities, whether for family members or on a professional or voluntary basis, should consult the Cold Weather Plan for England (external link) for a range of useful advice, as well as ensure that those at risk have homes heated to at least 18°C and receive regular visitors
  • Charities and social and health care organisations should ensure that carers of the most at-risk are getting the support and advice they need to protect those who may be vulnerable to the ill-effects of cold weather